Friday, February 26, 2010

Urban Comedy: Tavis Smiley - A Crab Determined to Reach Beyond His Grasp


Urban Comedy: Tavis Smiley - A Crab Determined to Reach Beyond His Grasp

Well, he's at it again, people. In spite of the fact that President Obama has saved the nation from a second Great Depression, responsible for getting a stimulus bill passed that has saved tens of thousands of jobs, is currently struggling to reconcile a jobs bill in congress, and is hard at work trying to get a 'New Deal' for the American people in health-care reform, Tavis Smiley seems to still be stuck on stupid in the groundless, and needlessly divisive criticism that  President Obama doesn't have "a Black agenda."

True to form, Tavis has stirred up this nonsense at one of the most crucial times in American history, and this time he's even taken it a step farther by accusing "Black leaders" (the phrase 'Black leader' suggests that Black people don't have sense enough to think for themselves), including Rev. Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous, Charles Ogletree, Valerie Jarrett, Marc Morial, and Dr. Dorothy Height of saying the President doesn’t need a Black agenda. In doing so he grossly distorted the meaning of Sharpton's comment that the president doesn't need to ballyhoo a Black agenda - a position, in my view, that signals tremendous growth on the part of Rev. Sharpton.

While Tavis vehemently denied it when confronted by Sharpton, on Tuesday, February 23, during his commentary on Tom Joyner's Morning Show, Tavis said the following:

"But, my Lord, what a difference a year makes. Over the past few weeks a chorus of Black leaders have started singing a new song. I must have missed that choir rehearsal, J., because I don’t know the words to this new hymn. The President doesn’t need a Black agenda, they sing. He’s not the president of Black America, he’s the president of all America, and he need not focus specifically on the unique challenges Black America is facing, they sing."

I certainly don't want to imply that either President Obama, or Black leaders, are above criticism - I've criticized both. But if one does have an issue to bring to the table, one should at least make every effort to see to it that one's criticism is accurate, specific, valid, and most important, constructive. And from my point of view, Tavis' allegation was none of those things. All he's doing is advocating an agenda that would give Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News more ammunition to obstruct any initiative that actually would benefit the Black community.

But I'm not surprised. This is the third time I've written about Tavis' rants against the president, and each time, his rants seemed to be more ego based and self-promoting than they are substantive. Even if Sharpton did say what Tavis alleged, I wouldn't have a problem with that, since the President is the president of all of America. Thus, it is his job to address America's agenda, and thereby, create an environment where all people, including the Black community, can prosper. Isn't that what we demand of a White President?

In that very same commentary Tavis referred to Dr. Martin Luther King as "the greatest American we’ve ever produced." Yet, MLK didn't advocate a "Black agenda either"; he advocated exactly what President Obama is pursuing - universal equality for all - and just like President Obama, he was being severely criticized for it at the time - I know that for a fact, because at the time, I was young, dumb, and severely critical of him myself.

Dr. King didn't look upon Black people as intellectually challenged. He was of the firm belief that all Black people needed was a level playing field and we could compete with any other group of people in the world. In fact, he was the walking, breathing personification of that fact - and so was Colin Powell, Johnnie Cochran, and yes, President Barack Obama. They are all, the very best the world has ever known in their chosen fields.

All of these men have clearly demonstrated that the Black agenda must originate, and be pursued, in our homes, and at our dinner tables. We've got to teach our children that character and excellence should take priority over bluster, ego, and greed; that what's important in life is WHO you are, not what you are, or our social status. We must teach our sons that our women must be treasured, respected, and cared for, and that our children are our most valuable asset, and we must be there for them. We must also teach them that it takes more of a man to build a life, than it does to take one.

Because the fact is, Black people are the product of a racist society, and as such, we're just as racist toward other Blacks as the most racist White man in the country - in fact, even more so. Clear evidence of that can be seen in the fact that out of all of the murders of young Black men committed in the past year, not once have we heard that the perpetrator was wearing a sheet.

We've allowed the killing and degradation of Black people to become ghetto-chic. If the Klan was putting out the exact same videos that are being put out by many Black rappers, advocating acts of violence against Blacks, or portraying Black women as butt-swinging "bitches and whoes," the entire nation - including other Whites - would be in an uproar. But Black hip hoppers have raised dragging other Black people through the mud to an art form - and we not only condone it, but reward it, and we allow our children to consume it, all day, and all night long.

Thus, the very top priority of any "Black agenda," must not only be to correct that situation, but simply getting across the fact that it's a situation needing to be corrected - and President Obama, even with all of the treasure of Fort Knox at his disposal, cannot bestow either responsible parents, or, common sense upon the Black community - that's something that only we can do for ourselves.

Tavis should know that, but I don't think he's really interested. Yeah, I know - he's done this, and he's done that for the Black community. But I think everything he does is calculated to optimize his own profile. I've come to look upon Tavis as just another self-servicing demagogue who's using the dysfunction within the Black community to pursue his own agenda. No, he's not all bad, but I don't think that he ever does a thing without considering what it can do for him. Take a look at his website, You've never seen such self-promotion.

So Tavis' criticism of President Obama is nothing more than a temper tantrum that's been going on every since, then Senator Obama, had the audacity to forego Tavis' State of the Black Union telecast in order to declare his candidacy for president before the Illinois statehouse. Tavis acted like he was anointed by the Black community to determine whether or not to confer our collective approval.

Thereafter, Tavis was quoted as saying, "I knew Barack Obama, before he was Barack Obama." That seemed to imply that after Obama started to getting notoriety he became too big for his britches. But what Tavis fails to understand is, Barack Obama has always Barack Obama - that's how he became president. National prominence didn't bring Obama stature; Obama's stature is restoring world prominence to the nation. Tavis needs to recognize that fact, as well as the fact that he and Obama are in two entirely different classes, both intellectually and substantively.

Tavis fails to understand that Barack Obama is one of the greatest men in the history, while he is simply another talk show host that comes a dime a dozen. Thus, Tavis is making a damn fool of himself by even trying to compete with the president. He comes off looking like a '52 Chevy racing his engine at a brand new Bentley, and he's getting a similar response.

One would think that a man who has stumbled upon the kind of success that Tavis Smiley has enjoyed would have gained a little wisdom along the way. But it seems that instead of wisdom, all Tavis has gained is a tremendous ego, and a mind-clouding delusion of grandeur - a delusion that's rapidly turning him into a national joke.

Tavis has come to personify the proverbial crab in a barrel, desperately trying to reach beyond his grasp.

Eric L. Wattree

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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